The Supreme Court collegium had taken all relevant facts into consideration while recommending advocate Lekshmana Chandra Victoria Gowri as a Madras High Court judge, the top court said on Friday, Bar and Bench reported.

The Supreme Court on February 7 dismissed two petitions against her appointment as an additional judge of the High Court. It released a detailed order in the public domain on Friday.

Justice Gowri took oath on February 7 even as the Supreme Court was hearing the petitions.

Lawyers and legal experts criticised the collegium’s move to recommend Gowri’s name as she is a member of the Bharatiya Janata Party and has previously made offensive comments about Christians and Muslims.

A bench of Justices Sanjiv Khanna and BR Gavai on Friday said that it cannot use its powers of judicial review to quash a recommendation of the collegium or ask it to reconsider its decision. “To do so would violate the law as declared, as it would amount to evaluating and substituting the decision of the collegium, with individual or personal opinion on the suitability and merits of the person,” it said.

The Supreme Court noted that the collegium did not deem it appropriate to withdraw its recommendation for Gowri’s appointment despite having received representations against her.

“The petitioners have themselves stated and enclosed copy of their representation dated 1st February 2023, albeit the Collegium of the High Court and the Supreme Court have not, on this basis, deemed it appropriate to withdraw the recommendation or recall their decision,” it said.

The bench added that the petitioners have themselves accepted that a number of people with political backgrounds have been made judges of the Supreme Court and the High Courts.

“This has not been an absolute bar to appointment of otherwise a suitable person,” the order said. “Similarly, there have been cases where the persons recommended for elevation have expressed reservations or even criticised policies or actions, but this has not been held to be a ground to treat them as unsuitable.”

The Supreme Court, however, said that the conduct of the judge must reflect independence and adherence to the democratic and constitutional values. “This is necessary as the judiciary holds the centre stage in protecting and strengthening democracy and upholding human rights and Rule of Law,” the order added.

The court’s order was released a day after Union minister Piyush Goyal said in the Rajya Sabha that aspersions should not be cast on Gowri’s appointment.

Objections to Gowri’s appointment

Last week, members of the Madras High Court Bar had written to the collegium and President Droupadi Murmu, drawing their attention to the comments made by Gowri about minority communities.

The letters had said that Gowri’s “regressive views are completely antithetical to foundational Constitutional values and reflect her deep-rooted religious bigotry”. This, the lawyers argued, made her unfit to be appointed as a High Court judge.

The Madras High Court lawyers referred to two interviews that Gowri gave to a YouTube channel purportedly hosted by the BJP’s ideological parent, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh.

The interviews are titled “Cultural genocide by Christian missionaries in Bharat” and “More threat to national security & peace? Jihad or Christian missionary?”.

The lawyers also drew the attention of the president and the collegium to an article written by her in the Organiser, the English language mouthpiece of the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh.

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